The Baptists trace their origins to John Smyth and the Separatist Movement beginning in England in 1608. Reformists of the time called for a return to the New Testament Christian example of purity. One primary Baptist distinctive is their practice of adult believer's baptism, rather than infant baptism.
Basic Tenets of the Faith
- Authority of Scripture - Baptists view the Bible as the ultimate authority in shaping a person's life.
- Baptism - As indicated by their name a primary Baptist distinction is their practice of believer's baptism and their rejection of infant baptism. Baptists consider Christian baptism to be an ordinance for believers only, by immersion only, and as a symbolic act, not having any power in itself. The act of baptism pictures what Christ has done for the believer in His death, burial, and resurrection. It pictures what Christ has done for the believer through the new birth, enabling death to the old life and newness of life to walk in. Baptism gives testimony to a salvation already received; it is not a requisite for salvation. It is an act of obedience to Jesus Christ.
- The Bible - Southern Baptists regard the Bible with great seriousness. It is God's divinely inspired revelation of himself to man. It is true, trustworthy, and without error.
Church Authority - Each Baptist church is autonomous, with no bishop or hierarchical body telling the local church how to conduct its business. Local churches themselves select their pastors and staff. They own their own building; the denomination cannot take it away.
Because of the congregational style of church governance on doctrine, Baptist churches often vary significantly, especially in the following areas:
- Communion - The Lord's Supper memorializes the death of Christ.
- Equality - In a resolution released in 1998, Southern Baptists view all people as equal in God's eyes, but believe the husband or man has authority in the household and responsibility to protect his family. The wife or woman ought to respect and love her husband and submit graciously to his demands.
- Evangelical - Southern Baptists are Evangelical meaning they adhere to the belief that while humanity is fallen, the good news is that Christ came to pay the penalty of our sins on the cross. That penalty, now paid in full, means that God offers forgiveness and new life as a free gift. All who will receive Christ as Lord may have it.
- Evangelism - The Good News is so vital that telling it is like sharing a cure for cancer. One could not keep it to himself. Evangelism and missions have their supreme place in Baptist life.
- Heaven and Hell - Southern Baptists believe in a heaven and hell. People who fail to recognize God as the one and only are sentenced to eternity in hell.
- Ordination of Women - Baptists believe Scripture teaches that men and women are equal in value, but have different roles in the family and in the church. Pastoral leadership positions are reserved for men.
- Perseverance of the Saints - Baptists do not believe that true believers will fall away and, thereby, lose their salvation. This is sometimes called, "Once saved, always saved." The proper term, however, is the final perseverance of the saints. It means that real Christians stick with it. It doesn't mean the believer won't stumble, but refers to an inward pull that will not allow him to quit the faith.
- The Priesthood of Believers - The Baptist position of the priesthood of believers upholds their belief in religious liberty. All Christians have equal access to God's revelation of truth through the careful study of the Bible. This is a position shared by all post-reformational Christian groups.
- Regeneration - When one receives Jesus Christ as Lord, the Holy Spirit does an internal work within the person to redirect his life, making him to be born again - or to use another biblical term, "regeneration." This is not merely choosing to "turn over a new leaf," but is a matter of God beginning a life-long process of changing our desires and affections.
- Salvation - The only way to get into heaven is salvation through Jesus Christ. To achieve salvation one must confess faith in God who sent his Son Jesus to die on the cross for the sins of mankind.
- Salvation by Faith - It is only by faith and belief that Jesus died for mankind and that He is the one and only God that people gain entrance into heaven.
- The Second Coming - Baptists generally believe in the literal Second Coming of Christ when God will judge and divide between the saved and the lost and Christ will judge believers, rewarding them for acts done while living on earth.
- Sexuality and Marriage - Baptists affirm God's plan for marriage and the sexual union were designed to be "one man, and one woman, for life." According to God's Word, homosexuality is a sin, though not an unforgivable sin.
- The Trinity - They believe in only one God who reveals Himself as God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
- The True Church - The doctrine of a believers church is a key belief in Baptist life. Members come into the church personally, individually, and freely. No one is "born into the church." Only those who have personal faith in Christ comprise the true church in the eyes of God - and only those should be counted as members of the church.
To learn more about the Southern Baptist denomination visit the Southern Baptist Convention.
(Sources: ReligiousTolerance.org, ReligionFacts.com, AllRefer.com, and the Religious Movements Web site of the University of Virginia.)